For the first time, Colombian Constitutional Court rulings are being translated into indigenous languages

On February 9, 2021, the project “Rights in the Territory” was launched, the result of a partnership between the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and the Colombian Constitutional Court to translate and adapt the most significant rulings of the Court to 26 indigenous languages – all documented at A victory for the nation’s indigenous peoples, it is in an effort to strengthen ethnic groups in the defense of their fundamental human rights, their autonomy, and their territorial and cultural rights. To assist the communities, not only are the texts in their native languages, but audio clips, videos, maps, and information in interactive formats are also provided to facilitate better understanding. This project hopes for the achievement of true equality for these indigenous communities, and sets a precedent on the path toward defending the rights of these communities.  

What is the main objective? 

The main objective of this project is to join efforts to promote, disseminate and provide access to the decisions of the Colombian Constitutional Court for the benefit of the country’s ethnic communities, in response to the barriers to access that these communities have due to their language or technicalities. The work is not negligible: Colombia has 115 indigenous peoples with 65 living languages. In the project’s first phase, rulings were adapted to 26 languages. It is expected to achieve greater coverage and ultimately ever greater equality for these populations.  

To achieve this objective, ACT and the Constitutional Court proposed a project that examines the context of the indigenous communities, their oral tradition, and their way of life. Beyond literal translation, the rulings most relevant to the indigenous communities are being adapted culturally and linguistically. One of the most important tasks within this project was identifying those persons best able to adapt the rulings, people belonging to the communities with which the work was conducted. Following is a video with their testimonials, demonstrating the value of their work.  

On February 9, 2021, the project “Rights in the Territory” was launched as a result of our partnership with the Colombian Constitutional Court. This project will work to translate and adapt the most significant rulings of the Court to 26 Indigenous languages. 

The work of adaptation, in addition to having a strong cultural component, sought to ensure that what is communicated is always relevant for the communities, especially for their claiming of rights and their self-determination. For this reason, the selected rulings were divided into five subjects that the Court has ruled on for the benefit of the indigenous communities: 1) ethnic diversity; 2) indigenous self-governance and autonomy; 3) territories; 4) a healthy environment and biocultural rights; and 5) prior consultation.  

For the Sikuani Arizona-Cupepe, a displaced community, ruling T-009 of 2013 was issued. This is one of the rulings translated and adapted in the project.
Why is this project important? 

The Colombian Constitutional Court, charged with safeguarding the integrity and supremacy of the 1991 national constitution, must be the guarantor of all that the constitution mandates for Colombian citizens. Projects such as these reinforce some of the main points of this Magna Carta, such as respect for human dignity and a participatory and pluralistic society. Through this project, respect may increase for the dignity of Colombians who live culturally and geographically far from the centers of government. This program helps to ensure what the 1991 constitution seeks, which is to forge a society capable of living with cultural, social, racial, and political differences.  

For indigenous communities, this presents itself as a historic opportunity to obtain clarity with regard to their situation within Colombia’s political framework, to understand how they can claim their rights, and to learn how they have been historically violated. 

Photo: This initiative serves to highlight the importance and contributions of the indigenous population to the development of Colombian society.
This initiative serves to highlight the importance and contributions of indigenous populations to the development of Colombian society.   

The Amazon Conservation Team, which has been working in the northwest Amazon for 25 years, seeks to strengthen indigenous communities, their self-determination, and their governance. It carries out efforts to protect indigenous rights, indigenous territory, and the biodiversity for which the indigenous communities present themselves as guardians. The partnership of this organization with the Constitutional Court is a significant effort to recognize the rights of all Colombians, to further the nation’s advancement in terms of ethnic diversity and pluralism, and to move toward true equality for its ethnic communities. 

Click on to view testimonials about this project and learn about its areas of work and with which communities it was carried out. 

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